J is for Jargon #AtoZChallenge

How much is too much?

A guest post by Vijaya Schartz

Jargon is a fact of life. We use it without noticing because it’s convenient. then after much abuse it gradually becomes part of the everyday vocabulary and finally enters the most prestigious editions of the OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY and the AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY, to name only two on my shelf.

Technical jargon is a must for a technical piece, since the readers of such a piece understand and expect it. We all know that rocket scientists do no speak our language. Similarly, a medical paper without medical jargon would not sound very professional.

But when it comes to fiction, what is a writer to do? What would ER be without the pseudo-medical jargon? What would CSI be without the cop speak? Police officers use a certain phraseology. Even though these are not real words, every fan of cop stories is familiar with ten-four. Code-blue has become such a cliché of medical jargon that most hospitals in the US now use a different code to avoid scaring the visitors in the waiting room.

The curious fact is that most of the jargon popularized by books and TV shows is not even accurate. Like the light sabers of Starwars, they are a convention, and we abide by it because once a created universe becomes popular, you cannot retract it. A writer who writes the real thing might not be taken seriously. The readers and viewers judge according to what they know, what is familiar.

For writers, jargon of any kind is a double edge weapon. While none at all may stiffen the prose, and especially the dialogue, introducing jargon can sometimes cheapen the piece. And too much of it can even make the entire work too difficult to understand for the average reader. Alienating a reader is the last thing we want to do.

Among the most common jargons fiction writers encounter is one close to my heart, that of Science Fiction. I’m guilty of using it in my books. My log line says: Blasters, Guns, Swords, Romance with a Kick. Every science fiction fan knows what a blaster is, even though it doesn’t exist in the real world... yet.

But there are more subtle jargons. When writing historical novels, how much is too much brogue? How many old words can you use without losing the reader? Historical names of pieces of clothing can add flavor to the story, but if the meaning can’t be guessed from the context, you’ve lost the reader. The same goes for foreign words. How much French can you slip into that Paris escapade? It’s often tempting to use too much jargon.

My philosophy on the topic is: LESS IS MORE. Use only a little jargon to give flavor to the piece. I know it’s sometimes painful to throw away all those juicy words you found in your research, but believe me, just a few flavorful words will do more for your story, and the reader will be grateful. After all, the first quality of popular fiction as I learned years ago is clarity. You can’t engage a reader who gets lost in the jargon jungle.

About Vijaya Schartz

Born in France, award-winning author Vijaya Schartz never conformed to anything and could never refuse a challenge. She likes action and exotic settings, in life and on the page. She traveled the world and claims she comes from the future.

She will have twenty titles available before the end of this year. Her books collected many five star reviews and literary awards. She makes you believe you actually lived these extraordinary adventures among her characters. Her stories have been compared to Indiana Jones with sizzling romance. So, go ahead, dare to experience the magic, and she will keep you entranced, turning the pages until the last line.

Find more at http://www.vijayaschartz.com

Find Vijaya's books on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/author/vijayaschartz

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